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Bikers ride for Benji

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Nov 11, 2020

Friends and family members gather around the mascot bike decorated in Benji’s behalf before the “Ride for Benji” fundraiser at Marinatown on Saturday. Benji, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, was not present as he and his immediate family live in Pennsylvania.


Dozens of bikers gathered at Marinatown in North Fort Myers early Saturday morning to ride for a cause — to help the family of a child diagnosed with cancer.

Nearly 50 riders gathered at the Sea Craft Bar and Restaurant to sign up and pay $15 for the event that included a post-ride party with a band, a silent auction, a raffle and a 25-mile ride.

The Ride for Benji was an event to benefit Ben McGuigan and his family. They live in Pennsylvania and all proceeds are to go toward medical bills and other expenses.

Cristina Highhouse, event organizer and Benji’s aunt, said Ben was diagnosed with leukemia last year and is in the process of undergoing three years of treatment, including chemotherapy and spinal taps.

“Obviously that gets very expensive and the family has to travel two hours for treatment. So, we’re trying to get some money together to help them cover everyday expenses,” Highhouse said. “We can’t go up and see him because of COVID, and even a family a block away can’t see him, so we’re trying to build a bridge from here.”

Benji’s family has done many fundraising events up north, from raffles to spaghetti dinners, since Benji’s dad isn’t currently employed and his mom works from home. Some of the money goes toward medical bills, but most goes toward their everyday needs.

The event was put on by Hades Hounds, a biker group of retired first responders, who got a few other bike groups to participate.

“We reached out to Cristina when we saw her post and we told her we could help.” said Wes “Yolo” Heck, president of Hades Hounds, a motorcycle club for police officers, firefighters, military and others. “We’ve gotten about $2,500 in donations through raffles and it’s all going to them.”

Other bike groups came out as well. The Loyal Warriors, another law enforcement biker group based out of Chicago, came out to support the family as it helps whenever the community needs it to help.

“To help somebody out who needs medical treatment is what we’re all about. It’s not just about ourselves, it’s about helping others,” said Jose “Coco” Velazquez of the Loyal Warriors.

“We support other law enforcement clubs the same way they support us. We have a network and we communicate with each other,” said Israel Calderon, another Loyal Warrior.

Ultimately, the idea was to let Benji and his family know there are people thinking about and helping him and trying the bridge the gap between him and his family members down south.

“We want to let them know that there are so many people down here who can take a day to acknowledge the fight he’s fighting,” Highhouse said. “Being here is hard. I think about him every day and this is my way of showing it.”